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Photo by David Ackerman

There’s something real about a newspaper, and it goes beyond the ink and page, beyond the action of picking one up at the drugstore or plucking it from the mailbox. 

We who work at TBR News Media imbue the paper, the one you hold in your hands right now, with our labor. If you could see us at our work, you would know just how hard and long we work to provide the community with as much local content as we can. Truly, the paper is alive.

While we editors and reporters are active in the community every day, we know the lives of the people behind the paper are not front and center.

Behind each of those bylines you might read in the paper today is a person researching, interviewing and eventually rapidly typing each deliberated word hunched over a desk. Each picture is edited and placed within the blocks of text. The ads are crafted by graphic designers spending hours arranging each one. We’re hardly some sort of news assembly line, working out of some monolithic New York City skyscraper. Our tiny, two-story office is located right here on the North Shore, blending into the surrounding rustic buildings of Setauket.

This past weekend, a team from TBR News Media traveled up to Albany for the annual New York Press Association convention. Hundreds of reporters, editors and publishers from papers from across the state gather for this annual event in a single location. 

Listening to the voices of the people at other papers during this event can be both disheartening and encouraging. Advertising dollars are down; and, while research from the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement shows journalists rate themselves high in credibility, accuracy and trustworthiness, the public has a much lower opinion. 

“Fake news” has become a common phrase, one that was initially used for the express purpose of distorting facts during the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s now regularly used to denigrate a pillar of our democracy, which concerns us. It’s important for people to understand the importance of our profession to a healthy democracy. Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable is an expression often used to describe the role of the newspaper. We aim to hold people in power accountable and report on government operations, so citizens become better informed voters. We take this role very seriously. 

A good chunk of our staff lives within our coverage areas along Long Island’s North Shore. We carefully report on the community because we are a part of that community. We wish to see it thrive because we ourselves care about what should happen to our neighbors and the place in which we all live.

What does that mean for you, the person holding the paper? Know that we appreciate you. You’re keeping the paper alive.

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Newspaper publishers, editors and staff members across the country — especially weeklies operating on tight budgets — are breathing sighs of relief.

Last week the United States International Trade Commission overturned President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint, and we couldn’t be happier. The tariffs that the U.S. began charging this year caused many newspapers in the country to cut staff or paper sizes — in some cases both — to absorb the rise in newsprint costs. Other publications closed their doors as the additional expense was the breaking point for many outlets, making it impossible to continue operating in an environment already riddled with challenges in a changing industry.

The overturning of this tariff, besides creating a sigh of relief, has demonstrated the balance of power in our country at work.

Many have expressed fear about how much power a president may have or think he has, but our forefathers were visionaries. Declaring their independence from England, they knew a monarchy wouldn’t work in the U.S. All levels of government, from federal down to local, are designed with checks and balances in place in the form of executive, legislative and judicial branches. The president may want something to happen — in this case to impose a tariff — but that doesn’t mean that senators, congressmen, judges and federal agencies have to agree with him. And if they don’t, they have the power to make sure that a bill or an edict doesn’t go forward or remain in place.

Speaking of our Founding Fathers, they ensured the U.S. Constitution contained an amendment to aid in protection of the free press. It was written to allow journalists to fairly report on events and happenings without government interference. This enables reporters the freedom and ability to keep a close eye on what elected officials are up to.

Imagine if weekly, in most cases local, newspapers needed to continue to absorb the newsprint tariff. We presume many more would suffer, and as each one folded, regional and national outlets would be left to try to pick up the slack jumping into areas local news reporters know inside and out. Or worse: No one would pick up the slack.

If the press runs into an issue like this again — government decisions directly impacting our ability to do our jobs effectively — we as an industry have shown there is strength in numbers. In a show of unity, Aug. 16, hundreds of papers in the U.S. published similar
editorials voicing displeasure over the president’s disrespectful treatment of members of the press dating back to his campaign. The goal was to make it clear that the press wasn’t the enemy of the people.

As your local press, we are thrilled to continue to serve you in the years to come.

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